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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Holds a Chaotic News Conference
      •  Harward Says, "No Thanks"
      •  Trump Names Alexander Acosta to be Secretary of Labor
      •  Mike Dubke Chosen as Communications Director
      •  Publications Are Offering Ways to Provide Tips Anonymously
      •  Chaffetz Gets to Work
      •  Current Wall is Full of Holes

Trump Holds a Chaotic News Conference

Yesterday afternoon, President Donald Trump held a news conference, ostensibly to announce his second pick for secretary of labor (see below), but he wandered off topic, crowing about his many accomplishments so far and attacking the media, the Obama administration, and more. Trump appeared frustrated by the job of running the government, which is clearly much more difficult than he expected. He was critical of the media's calling him and his staff on their many lies and was incensed about the endless stream of leaks coming from his administration. Nevertheless, he was very proud of what he had accomplished so far, saying: "There has never been a president that has done so much in such a short period of time." He also said: "We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban," not mentioning that multiple courts have blocked it and that there have been huge protests over it all over the country.

He also said that the New York Times story on his campaign's having had multiple contacts with Russia was "discredited," although that is completely untrue. He also said many other things that are false, including getting the number of electoral votes he received wrong, calling actual news "fake news," and saying that ISIS is spreading like a cancer. He also said that drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars, without specifying which drugs and which candy bars he had in mind.

What is especially interesting is how media outlets covered the news conference. They are getting much bolder in response to his constant lying and erratic behavior. Here are a few examples of the coverage:

  • Politico: "The president said he wasn't 'ranting and raving' even as he ranted and raved."

  • New York Times: "[T]he session was marked by an extraordinarily raw and angry defense the likes of which has never been seen in a modern White House."

  • Washington Post: "Pressed on his incorrect assertion that he had the largest margin of victory in the electoral college since President Ronald Reagan, Trump blamed faulty facts."

  • CNN: "He displayed a sense of anger and grievance rarely vented by a President in public—let alone one who has been in office for just four weeks."

  • The Hill: "He also falsely claimed he won the most electoral votes since Ronald Reagan. When corrected by an NBC News reporter, Trump appeared to pin blame on his staff."

It seems likely that Trump was aiming his news conference not at the reporters in the room, or even their readers and viewers, but at his own base, which seems to care little about his falsehoods and inconsistencies. This may set the pattern for subsequent news conferences as well. (V)

Harward Says, "No Thanks"

Former Navy SEAL and Vice Admiral Robert Harward was Donald Trump's pick to replace now-departed National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. After taking some time to consider the offer, Harward has declined the opportunity. He issued a statement that read, in part: "This job requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week focus and commitment to do it right. I currently could not make that commitment."

That's the official, polite explanation. Behind the scenes, there seem to have been two concerns that proved insurmountable. The first is that Harward wanted to name his own team, something that was unacceptable to Steve Bannon. So, it's a win for Bannon, and another indicator who's really running the show at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The second problem was that Harward did not want to become enmeshed in the chaos of the White House or, as he described it to a friend, Trump's "sh** sandwich." It's certainly not a coincidence that the Admiral declined shortly after Trump's strange press conference on Thursday.

When Flynn jumped ship, we did a rundown of the potential replacement candidates. Given that the job needs to be filled ASAP, the shortlist presumably remains the same, sans Harward. Clearly, Trump is not enthralled with interim Advisor Keith Kellogg, and it seems evident that he cannot look past David Petraeus' criminal conviction for leaking classified information. So, the new frontrunner is presumably Stephen Hadley, who served as National Security Advisor throughout George W. Bush's second term. (Z)

Trump Names Alexander Acosta to be Secretary of Labor

After Andrew Puzder was informed that his nomination to be secretary of labor would be defeated in the Senate, he withdrew it. Yesterday, Donald Trump tried again, this time naming the Harvard-educated R. Alexander Acosta to the position. Since 2009, Acosta has been dean of the Florida International University College of Law but he has held several government jobs in the past, namely:

  • Member of the National Labor Relations Board (2002-2003)
  • Assistant attorney general in the civil rights division (2003-2005)
  • U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida (2005-2009)

On account of his three early government positions, he has been approved by the Senate three times already.

It is hard to imagine a candidate more different from Puzder, an employer who despised his own employees and called them the "worst of the worst." He opposed the minimum wage law and was about as hostile to workers and unions as one can possibly be. All indications so far about Acosta are that he is a fair and even-handed lawyer whose views are very different from Trump's on many subjects. For example, when working in the Justice Dept., he authorized the department to take on a case in which an 11-year-old Muslim student, Nashala Hearn, in Oklahoma was suspended for refusing to remove her head scarf on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. At the time, Acosta said: "No student should be forced to choose between following her faith and enjoying the benefits of a public education."

Acosta, who would be the first Latino in the cabinet, is no liberal, however. In the Justice Dept. he worked under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Earlier in his career, he clerked for Justice Samuel Alito, probably the most conservative member of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, he will almost certainly be confirmed easily in the Senate, with many Democratic votes. (V)

Mike Dubke Chosen as Communications Director

Sean Spicer has spent the first month of the Trump presidency overmatched, trying to do two jobs, when—in the end—he might not really be suited for either. We will soon find out if he does better with less on his plate, because he will have a new boss as soon as Friday afternoon. It's Mike Dubke, who will be named White House Communications Director.

Dubke is founder of Crossroads Media, which does advertising and strategic consulting for Republican politicians. His appointment, which has Reince Priebus' fingerprints all over it, has irked some members of Team Trump, who would have preferred a long-time loyalist rather than someone who actively worked against The Donald for much of the campaign. The problem is that there aren't too many unemployed Trump loyalists left, while the ones that have taken on media-related jobs for the administration (i. e., Kellyanne Conway) have not exactly impressed. So, looking outside the inner circle was probably the right call. (Z)

Publications Are Offering Ways to Provide Tips Anonymously

The media have largely concluded that getting the truth from the administration is going to be tough, with its newfound interest in "alternative facts." As a consequence, a number of publications are encouraging people who have tips to come forward anonymously. Some of them have set up quite elaborate mechanisms for people with tips to use so they can evade detection later. Among others, these outlets are offering the following ways of contacting them:

All these publications give additional advice about sending tips, including sending postal mail from mailboxes rather than post offices (where there might be surveillance cameras), removing metadata from files sent, and not discussing the submission with anyone. (V)

Chaffetz Gets to Work

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) chairs the House Oversight Committee, which is charged with looking into legal and ethical violations by members of the federal government. There would seem to be much opportunity for Chaffetz to do some investigating these days, between the Logan Act-violating contacts with Russia, the fuzzy line between business and politics at the White House, executive orders being signed without being read by the President, and other less-than-savory behaviors. Thus far, however, Chaffetz has demurred.

That finally changed on Thursday, when the Representative finally announced his first target: It's a close aide of...Hillary Clinton. Specifically, Bryan Pagliano, who helped set up the Secretary's infamous e-mail server, and has not complied with two subpoenas to appear before the committee. Needless to say, this has raised some eyebrows in Washington. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the committee, had a pointed response: "Apparently, Chairman Chaffetz and President Trump are the only two people in Washington today who think we should still be investigating Secretary Clinton." One wonders how long the GOP members of Congress can squeeze mileage out of Clinton/Obama hatred, while ignoring what happens at the other end of the avenue. (Z)

Current Wall is Full of Holes

Even if Donald Trump is able to build his wall, there are several reasons that it is not likely to work. The fact that most undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. legally and then just overstay their welcome. The fact that walls can be tunnelled under, as the current wall has been in at least 150 places. And, a new report from the Government Accountability Office identifies another problem: The current wall has been breached over 9,200 times.

The breaches include the tunnels already mentioned, but also the places where people are able to climb over the wall, and the many, many places where a hole has been cut in the existing wall, which is actually a fence for most of its 654-mile span. And sometimes, smugglers get even more creative: using air cannons to fire drugs over the wall/fence, using cranes to pick up a car on one side and deposit it on the other, or going by sea instead of by land. These kinds of inconvenient truths may escape the attention of Donald Trump's base, but they do not escape the attention of Congress, which controls the purse strings. So, the odds that Trump will get his wall are growing poorer by the day. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb16 Puzder Withdraws Nomination
Feb16 Trump Picks Harward for NSA
Feb16 Who Told Flynn to Talk to the Russians?
Feb16 What Is Pence's Role Now and Going Forward?
Feb16 Trump Says Palestinian State Not Needed
Feb16 Trump Rambles in Press Conference
Feb16 Bannon v. Breitbart
Feb16 Anyone's a Candidate for Office These Days. Anyone.
Feb15 What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?
Feb15 More Russian Headaches for Trump
Feb15 Perez Claims to Have 180 of the 224 Votes Needed to Be Elected DNC Chairman
Feb15 Hillary 2020?
Feb15 House Freedom Caucus Throws Up a Roadblock to Repealing the ACA
Feb15 Puzder Told Ex-Wife: I Will See You in the Gutter
Feb15 More Protests Are Coming
Feb15 Trump Will Have Huge Power to Reshape the Courts
Feb15 Ethics Office Recommends Punishing Conway
Feb14 Out Like Flynn
Feb14 Mnuchin, Shulkin Confirmed by Senate
Feb14 Four GOP Senators Undecided about Puzder
Feb14 What Does Trump Really Believe?
Feb14 Trump's Approval Rating Hits New Low in Gallup Poll
Feb14 Strange New Senator
Feb13 Cornyn: A Physical Wall on the U.S.-Mexico Border Would Not Rate High among Texans
Feb13 Trump Beats Voter Fraud Drum Again, and Again
Feb13 Trump's Good Friend Says Priebus Has to Go
Feb13 Conway Knows Exactly What She is Doing
Feb13 Impeach Trump!
Feb13 Thus Far, the Presidency Has Been Bad for Business
Feb13 Former NSA Analyst: Spies Don't Trust Trump
Feb13 The New Tea Party?
Feb13 Wait, That's Not Donald Trump
Feb12 North Korea Fires a Missile
Feb12 Trump Vetoes Tillerson's Choice for Deputy
Feb12 Steve Miller Is Almost as Powerful as Steve Bannon
Feb12 New White House Press Secretary?
Feb12 Trump Says He Will Negotiate the Price of the Border Wall Way Down
Feb12 The Obamacare Purge Is Underway
Feb11 Trump Caves to China
Feb11 Flynn Looks to Be in Hot Water
Feb11 Russia May Hand Snowden over to Trump
Feb11 Some Details of Trump Dossier Confirmed
Feb11 See You in Court
Feb11 Trump Administration Won't Take Ban to SCOTUS Right Now...Or Maybe They Will
Feb11 What Might TrumpCare Look Like?
Feb11 DeVos off to a Rough Start
Feb10 Ninth Circuit Court Deals Setback to Trump
Feb10 Price Approved as HHS Secretary
Feb10 Trump Talks to Xi
Feb10 Former Director of National Intelligence Opposes Travel Ban